Welcome to our end of the year wrap-up post for The Week in Weed; it’s hard to believe another year has come and (almost) gone, but the calendar doesn’t lie.  In what we are calling an homage to Dave Barry and his always hilarious Year in Review, we’ll organize these stories by month.

Without further ado, here’s a look at the stories that grabbed our attention in 2018. Continue Reading The Week, No Make that the Year, in Weed: 2018

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

In what may become another continuing feature, another “red” state appears poised to being the marijuana legalization process.  Member of the Nebraska legislature are looking to put medical cannabis on the 2020 ballot.

Meanwhile, if there were an award for best name of a marijuana store, the Gas N’ Grass in Portland, ME would win, hands down.

The fact that Michigan has legalized cannabis, but not the sale of cannabis is not problem for one entrepreneur, who has embraced a “gifting” model.

Although New Jersey is on our “states to watch” list, adult use legalization is not going to happen this year.  We’ll see what 2019 brings.

We reported last week that Minnesota was considering marijuana legalization.  For more info and some great analysis, see this blog post from the Minneapolis Criminal Law News.

Andrew Cuomo has appeared before in our “politicians coming around on marijuana” segment.  He’s now fully in support of full legalization.

In international news, New Zealand will have a binding referendum on cannabis legalization in 2020.  We promise to follow this news and report back in a future Week in Weed.

Sometimes it seems as if everyone is in favor of legal cannabis.  This is not true.  Take New Hampshire’s governor.

See you next Friday!

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

The big news this week is that hemp legalization is on its way to the President’s desk.  Noted hemp supporter Sen. Mitch McConnell even signed the bill with a hemp pen.

In other federal news, the Surgeon General has come out in favor of rescheduling cannabis.  He believes the current placement of marijuana in Schedule I has prevented research into the drug.

In California, the Bureau of Cannabis Control has finalized its regulations.  They will now make their way to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for review.  Marijuana Business Daily has a nice summary of the provisions and what they will mean for businesses in the state.

But the action on the state level is not just on the West Coast.  The inter-state rivalry between Michigan (which just legalized adult-use cannabis) and Illinois continues, as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks out in favor of legalizing marijuana.  In other Midwestern news, Minnesota might also consider legalization, but, don’t hold your breath, votes may not be taken until 2020.

And for the latest on the Utah situation, see Jinouth Vasquez’s post which describes the state of play there, at least as of yesterday afternoon!

See you next Friday!

What a year it’s been in legalizing cannabis—from conservative states legalizing medical marijuana—to city ordinances imposing cannabis requirements. Changes in Cannabis laws are definitely creating a buzz for SF and Utah employers.

Background Checks SF. San Francisco, known for its forward progress in the cannabis space, has done it again. Effective October 1, 2018, employers are prohibited from “inquiring about, requiring disclosure of, or basing employment decisions on convictions for decriminalized behavior, including the non-commercial use and cultivation of cannabis.” The ordinance restricts employers from asking questions about pot convictions and, instead, authorizes the City to impose penalties on employers who violate the ordinance. Some of the penalties include a private right of action for the victim and monetary payment.

Notably, in conformance with California’s Fair Chance Employment Act, the ordinance does allow employers to ask about convictions after a conditional offer of employment has been made. Under the Act, employers can deny an applicant a position of employment because of the conviction, but the employer must make an individualized assessment of whether the applicant’s conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job which justify denying the applicant the position. In making the assessment, the employer must consider the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct; the time since the offense; and the nature of the job held or sought.  For more information on what else an employer is required to do when contemplating denying employment to an applicant, contact your favorite Seyfarth cannabis attorney.

Could Utah’s cannabis legalization be up in smoke? As previously reported, Utah legalized medical marijuana this midterm through Proposition 2. Proposition 2 failed to include important provisions in its initiative, including what rights employers would have.

However, Utah’s House of Representatives held a special legislative session whereby lawmakers changed Proposition 2 and adopted more restrictive provisions in what is being called the medical cannabis compromise. These restrictive provisions include employer protections. For example, a draft of the medical cannabis compromise states that an employee may not “be under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol during work hours” nor can the employee “refuse to submit to a drug or alcohol test.” (Section 67-19-33).

The compromise also states that employees cannot manufacture, dispense, possess, use, or distribute a controlled substance if: (1) the activity prevents state agencies from receiving federal grants or performing under federal contracts of $25,000 or more; or (2) the activity prevents the employee from performing his “services or work for state government effectively as regulated by the rules of the executive director.”

Although Utah lawmakers tried to clear the haze left by Proposition 2, a pair of advocacy groups have since filed a lawsuit to block the medical cannabis compromise. The groups argue that the compromise is unconstitutional and interferes with what the voters enacted. The group asked the Utah Supreme Court to allow a referendum on the legislature’s action and allow them to go before voters to challenge the medical cannabis compromise. Alternatively, they seek to overturn the compromise and instead, keep Proposition 2 as the law.

While this lawsuit may be a long shot because the legislature has the legal authority to modify or replace ballot initiatives, you’ll want to stay tuned for further updates as this story develops.

And if you’d like to get a preview of what 2019 may have in store for California and cannabis, check out “Pot-Protective Employment Laws Loom in 2019” in the Los Angeles Lawyer magazine.

 

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

First, recreational marijuana is now legal in the state of Michigan.  Of course, as we have discussed before, making marijuana legal is only the first step in setting up stores to purchase marijuana.  In fact, the Chicago Tribune wonders if Illinois could legalize marijuana and set up commercial outlets more quickly.

Meanwhile, in Utah, another state that voted on marijuana in the recent election, the legislature has crafted a compromise law.  Not everyone is happy about it, but with the approval of the governor, it’s now the law of the land.

Speaking of the delay between legalization and availability, Arkansas voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2016.  Growers are hoping to have product available this spring.

In foreign news, Mexico has approved over the counter cannabis products, while Luxembourg has released a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.

A major tobacco company is looking to invest in Canadian marijuana.  The stock of Cronos Group, the company that could be acquired, rose on the news.

Finally, not everyone in Canada is happy about legalization.   Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

See you next Friday!

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

The big news this week, at least on the federal level, is that hemp legalization appears to be coming sooner rather than later.  Nothing like having an important Senator on your side to smooth the way.

In state news, marijuana stores in Massachusetts opened last week (after WIW went to press) with many customers eager to purchase their wares.  Remember, Massachusetts voters opted to legalize cannabis in 2016.  Voters in Michigan may want to keep that timeframe for stores to open in mind, as legalization takes effect there December 6.  Possession and home cultivation will be legal next week, but it will probably be a while before shops open.

Remember when it seemed as if New Jersey was the last place you thought would legalize cannabis?  Times have changed!  Granted, this newest proposal may not go anywhere, but these bills are no longer dead on arrival.

And add North Carolina to the list of states considering legalization.  Theirs is an interesting idea, that I’ve not seen before, where each county would be able to decide to legalize or not.  Like wet and dry counties, but with cannabis rather than alcohol.

And in our continuing series on politicians who have changed their mind on marijuana, Joe Kennedy III has now joined this club.

In international news,  South Korea has legalized medical marijuana, the first country in East Asia to do so.

And finally, for our Chicagoland readers, please join us at our Chicago Willis Tower office on Thursday, December 6th, for breakfast along with a Seyfarth Legal Forum and Continuing Legal Education (CLE): 2018 Highlights and a Look Ahead to 2019.  Among the topics under discussion is cannabis in Illinois.

While there is no cost to attend, registration is required and space is limited.  If you have any questions, please contact Fiona Carlon at fcarlon@seyfarth.com and reference this event.

See you next week!

Georgia workers want to know if they can get fired for legally using cannabis oil.

In Georgia, employees risk being penalized by their employers for their legal use of Cannabidiol (CBD) oil while performing their jobs.  Employers wishing to maintain a drug-free workplace are concerned about employees performing their duties impaired if they use CBD oil, even when CBD oil contains low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and has proven to be safer and more effective than opioids.

The lack of clear guidelines is frustrating workers. State law allows employees to use CBD oil, while other laws allow employers to fire workers for using it. Georgia lawmakers are looking to move the ball forward on harmonizing the employer’s goal of prohibiting working under the influence on the one hand with the patient’s goal of legally treating health conditions on the other.

Legislators will have to categorize CBD oil.

Did the CBD oil come from marijuana or hemp?

Both marijuana and hemp are plants that come from the “cannabis” family. The primary difference between the two plants is the level of THC present. Marijuana plants can have THC levels of up to 30%, whereas there is usually less than .3% of THC in hemp (you can’t get high from .3%).

After the Agricultural Act and Farm Bill in 2014 drew some attention to hemp, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 removed hemp from the controlled substance schedule so long as there was no more than .3% THC. Therefore, hemp derived CBD oil is legal; but under federal law, CBD oil derived from marijuana is illegal.  The legality of marijuana derived CBD oil at the state level depends on how individual states treat marijuana.

But what if we remove the THC from marijuana derived CBD oil?

18 states, including Georgia, are in the process of passing legislation to specifically address this issue and resolve the relationship between THC threshold and CBD oil categorization.

Georgia should have clearer answers after the 2019 legislative session.

Currently, Georgia allows for the use of low-THC CBD oil, but the lack of clarity requires forward-thinking legislation to satisfy employers concerned about impaired workers while protecting patients who are following state law while performing their jobs.

Back in March, 2016, House Bill 722 was introduced to allow Georgia manufacturers to grow and cultivate medical marijuana in-state under strict controls. While this early legislation left pro-cannabis legislators wanting more, it allowed for the limited use of CBD oil to treat severe illnesses. By the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session, SB 16 and HB 65 broadened the conditions eligible for treatment from low THC CBD oil (including PTSD, intractable pain, and Alzheimer’s).

Earlier this year, a resolution was passed to study industrial hemp production.  This optimistically signals that much needed clarity should result from the upcoming legislative session in 2019.

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

Most of the international news lately has focused on Canada, and with good reason.  But it’s not only our neighbors to the north who are making news in the cannabis space.

Israel is looking to export medical marijuana while Germany is facing a lawsuit over its medical cannabis plan.  And in New Zealand, the people of Ruatoria are hoping medical marijuana can save the town.

We talked last week about the prospects for Illinois following Michigan’s lead to legalize recreational marijuana.  Now, it seems that, following Missouri and Oklahoma, Kansas might venture into the medical cannabis industry.

Several of us who bring you The Blunt Truth call the DC area home, so we follow the developments in our nation’s capital with particular interest.  Last Friday, the D.C. Department of Health published proposed rules allowing the sale of chocolate medical marijuana-infused products.  Unlike statutes, the District’s regulations are not subject to Congressional oversight, so most likely, in 30 days, these items will be available.  So soon, you’ll be able to get your cannabis, and the munchies you’ll need afterwards, all in one package.

A Word version of the new rule is available here:  Health Department of 22C DCMR Ch. 56 Ingestible Items

See you next week!

Seyfarth Synopsis: The Tenth Circuit is set to decide whether workers in Colorado’s legalized marijuana industry are entitled to wage and hour protections under the FLSA. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal statute that provides wage and hour benefits to certain employees.  On the other hand, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is a federal statutes that categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is illegal under federal law.  Simple possession (let alone participating in its manufacture and distribution) is illegal, irrespective of state law to the contrary.  In the wake of widespread legalization of recreational marijuana in states across the country, a questions has arisen as to whether the FLSA was meant to provide wage and hour protections to employees of businesses engaged in the manufacture or distribution of Schedule I drugs under the CSA.

Background

This question has been put to the test in Kenney v. Helix TCS, Inc..  In Kenney, an employee of Helix, which provides armed security and transport services for businesses that grow and distribute marijuana, filed a putative collective action against Helix under the FLSA.  Kenney claims that Helix misclassified him, and similarly situated employees, as exempt and owes them overtime wages.  In response, Helix moved to dismiss the action, arguing that Kenney is not entitled to the protections of the FLSA because he is employed in the marijuana industry, which is entirely forbidden under the CSA.

The District Court denied Helix’s motion to dismiss.  The Court observed that Helix did not cite any cases in support of its theory, while Kenney relied on Greenwood v. Green Leave Lab LLC, which held that a plaintiff employed in a marijuana-testing laboratory under Oregon’s recreational marijuana law was entitled to protections under the FLSA, notwithstanding the CSA’s prohibition on marijuana.  Further, the Court held that businesses are not precluded from complying with federal laws because their business practices may violate other federal laws.  Nonetheless, the Court certified the ruling for immediate appeal to the Tenth Circuit with respect to the issue of whether Kenney is a covered employee under the FLSA.  Continue Reading DIRTY WAGES: TENTH CIRCUIT TO DECIDE WHETHER EMPLOYEES IN THE MARIJUANA INDUSTRY ARE COVERED UNDER THE FLSA

Welcome back to The Week in Weed, your Friday look at what’s happening in the world of legalized marijuana.

After last week’s dizzying amount of news, it’s nice to settle down a bit and have more of a “regular” news flow.  Not that things haven’t been happening; the elections have led to new initiatives surrounding marijuana.

For instance, there’s some speculation that the new governor of Illinois will seek to follow Michigan’s example and legalize cannabis.

And speaking of Michigan, politicians there are talking about expungement of criminal records related to marijuana use.

In Texas meanwhile,  there’s discussion of legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis.

But the news isn’t all with the states; things are happening on the federal level as well.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising that industrial hemp will appear in the farm bill.  And veterans interested in medical marijuana will be happy to know that proposed legislation to loosen restrictions at the Veterans Administration has been announced.

And for those of you thinking about changing careers, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is looking for some professional joint rollers.

See you next week!